Grilled Eggplant with Cherry Tomato and Cilantro Vinaigrette

After some major pruning last week, I discovered I had several eggplant ready for harvest in the back garden. I get so excited to garden, I sometimes don't think about what I will do with all of the veggies I've planted when it's time to harvest. I don't think I have *ever* purchased an eggplant in the store, but I have gotten them from the farm for the last several years. But I always have to go searching for something to do with them when they show up in my produce bag.

'Perfect Vegetables' to the rescue. This cookbook is put out by the wonderful people at Cook's Illustrated. Every cookbook of theirs that I've tried as well as every recipe from the magazine have always been successful, and that's obviously because of their methods. They test the heck out of every recipe before publishing. So it takes the guesswork out for you and me. That said, whenever I don't have a specific ingredient on hand, I will change a recipe to accommodate what I do have in the house versus going out to the grocery store to buy a shallot or something.

Faced with the two globe eggplant from out back (wear gloves when you harvest eggplant - OUCH!) and the Japanese eggplant from the farm, I wanted to find something that would be so good that I would eat it all (and use them all up at once). For that I was willing to take a few extra steps to get it right.

I also have a constant stream of cherry tomatoes at the ready; every time I pick one, ten new ripe tomatoes appear in its place. The herbs were also no problem as I've got them growing absolutely everywhere. So this dish was local and sustainable in the extreme and that's the cooking that is the most fun for me.
Grilled Eggplant with Cherry Tomato and Cilantro Vinaigrette
adapted from Perfect Vegetables by the editors of Cook's Illustrated Magazine

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, each tomato quartered (about 1c)
1/4 tsp salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 small red onion, sliced (PV specified 1 shallot, minced)
2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons lemon juice (PV specified lime)
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 recipe grilled eggplant (see below)

Mix tomatoes, salt, cayenne, onion, cilantro, lemon juice and oil together in a medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature until the flavors meld, about 20 minutes.

Transfer grilled eggplant to a platter. Pour the vinaigrette over the grilled eggplant and serve immediately.

Grilled Eggplant

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp minced fresh thyme or oregano leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 small to medium eggplant (about 2 lbs), ends trimmed, cut crosswise into rounds

Combine oil, garlic, herb, salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Place the eggplant on a platter and brush both sides with the oil mixture.

Grill the eggplant over a medium-hot fire, turning once, until both sides are marked with dark stripes, 8-10 minutes. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

*some people insist upon salting eggplant to reduce bitterness. If you use really fresh eggplant, there will be nothing bitter about it!

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